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Nanosat-based Stellar Occultation: Developing inexpensive methods to observe atmospheric gravity waves and high-altitude turbulence - Livestream

Our project is developing instrumentation to remotely sense properties of atmospheric gravity waves. Gravity waves are atmospheric disturbances that can propagate from the troposphere all the way to the thermosphere. As the wave propagates upwards, air parcels along the path are displaced, creating perturbations in the local density and temperature. However, the density and temperature perturbations created by a passing gravity wave are small and occur at high altitudes, making them difficult to observe. Based on the limited observational capabilities currently available, it is strongly suspected that energy inputs into the stratosphere are largely driven by atmospheric gravity waves. These energy and momentum inputs influence the dynamics of the upper atmosphere, potentially affect aerosol distributions and in cases where the gravity wave breaks in the stratosphere can lead to turbulence.

Our observational methods are based on stellar occultation (observing a star as the line of sight transits through the Earth’s atmosphere). This technique has been used in the past and was shown to be capable of detecting and characterizing gravity waves. However, these past experiments were hosted on conventional satellites which come with astronomical costs. This high cost forces the atmospheric research community to prioritize satellite missions, selecting only the top 1 or 2 missions to fund. The result is that many important science needs go unmet. Small satellites offer the potential to fill this gap, providing a platform to host sensors capable of collecting this much needed data at a greatly reduced cost.

In this talk I will introduce atmospheric gravity waves and discuss the basic physics of stellar occultation. After this, I will talk about how we developed instrumentation to perform stellar occultation that is small enough, light enough and robust enough to be hosted on a Low Earth Orbit nanosat. Simulated results will be shared as well as some preliminary data collected in orbit.

Speaker: Matthew Horsley, Lawrence Livermore National Labs

This meeting will be held using the video conference utility Zoom. The meeting link will be emailed to members. For non-members if you would like to join the meeting, please send an email to the club president asking for the meeting link and telling us a bit about your areas of interest in astronomy.

Friday, 07/17/20


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Tri-Valley Stargazers

, CA